Football News

Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka is on his way to settling the ‘world-class’ debate

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 19:00, 29 February 2024 | Updated: 10:33, 8 May 2024

Bukayo Saka is on the cusp of registering a rare Premier League milestone when Arsenal visit Sheffield United on Monday night.

The 22-year-old, recently thrust into ‘is he the world-class?’ debate, has scored in his last five top-flight appearances games, netting twice in each of his last two away from home (against West Ham and Burnley).

To put this in some perspective, only Arsenal legend Dennis Bergkamp (September 1997) and Saka’s international teammate Harry Kane (September 2017) have ever scored 2+ goals in three consecutive away outings.

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Saka, a goal shy of equalling his best Premier League return (14 strikes managed last season), was recently deemed not at the world-class level by footballer-turned-pundit Rio Ferdinand, much to Gunners hero Ian Wright’s chagrin.

“If I’m him [Saka], I’m probably a little bit p***ed off about that. And I’d probably be a bit p***ed off with Rio about it for bringing it up like it is because it’s the narrative of everything, especially when you listen to TNT,” he told his Wrighty’s House podcast.

“And so, it’s something now, I’d be very interested to see his relationship going on with Rio, who for me, let’s face it, one of the most decorated players, to come with that kind of conversation does not help. It doesn’t help at all. In that particular situation, I was very disappointed with that because it’s not needed.”

In the aforementioned 2022/23 season, the Londoner also ended with double digits in terms of assists (11), and he is three converted chances away from another double-double Premier League campaign.

Saka remains near this year’s Golden Boot race, with pace-setter Erling Haaland only four goals in front. However, in 2024, Saka netted seven times, the most in England’s top division.

But it’s not just in the Premier League the left-footed winger has shone. Playing in his first Champions League campaign, Saka was directly involved in more goals from open play than any other player in this year’s group stage (three goals and four assists), with his four open-play assists the most of any individual.

“When you talk about consistency at his age… what he has done in the last two or three seasons is remarkable,” manager Mikel Arteta said following Saka reaching 100 goal involvements in an Arsenal shirt during their recent 6-0 win over West Ham. “His attitude, his quality, what he delivers every week… it’s really difficult to find. That’s why he is so important to us.”